Based on the 2020 census, there has been a significant increase in dual-income households in Singapore, with the majority of married couples seeing both partners holding jobs. This translates to less time available to complete housework, care for elderly parents, and look after their young children.
To give households more choices when seeking domestic services, the government launched the pilot Household Services Scheme (HSS) in 2017 before making it a permanent fixture in 2021.
What is the Household Services Scheme (HSS)?
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), HSS allows “companies to hire more migrant workers to provide part-time domestic services, such as home cleaning, grocery shopping, car washing and pet-sitting.” When launched in 2017, MOM had worked with 15 companies to provide these part-time household services, and the overwhelming demand resulted in the scheme growing to include over 140 companies.
On 15 March 2023, MOM also launched a pilot programme that expands the scope of HSS “to provide selected HSS companies with more migrant workers to provide basic child-minding and elder-minding services”. The programme is believed to benefit families that require such support “for only a few hours a day or week and give them more options to meet their household needs”.
What are the services provided by HSS?
First launched with the intent to help families with household chores without the need for a live-in helper, HSS-approved companies provide household cleaning services, grocery shopping, car-washing and pet-sitting. The new pilot programme launched in March 2023 expands the scope of what is covered under HSS’ domestic services to include both child- and elderly-minding services.
Child-minding services under HSS are only available for children above 18 months. The services include assisting with feeding, diapering, dressing, toilet-training, bathing and brushing teeth for the child, engaging the child in educational and developmental activities, keeping watch over the child, and assisting the child with medication (as prescribed by healthcare professionals).
When it comes to elder-minding services, a HSS worker can assist with personal care tasks for the elderly person (including bathing, dressing, toileting, and brushing teeth), assist with activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (including feeding, lifting, positioning, and transferring the elderly person).
Elder-minding services also include engaging the elderly person in mind-stimulating activities, leisure or recreational activities, or simple maintenance exercises (as prescribed by healthcare professionals). Accompanying the elderly person on walks, keeping watch over the elderly person, and assisting the elderly person with prescribed medication are also part of the possible job scopes under this service.
What are the HSS guidelines for child- and elder-minding services?
Out of the 140 HSS-approved companies, only 25 companies are allowed to carry out child- and/or elder-minding services.
Workers from HSS pilot companies that are providing elder-minding services have to undergo and meet training requirements set by the Ministry of Health (MOH). They also need to undergo competency assessments if they do not have relevant qualifications.
Additionally, for families who are keen to use these services, HSS pilot companies will also conduct “an assessment of households’ care needs, and fully disclose their workers’ relevant experience and qualifications to households”.
Households using child- or elder-minding services should also assess the suitability of the worker for the care needs of the household. Potential employers are also advised to have a member of the household present to supervise, especially when using the services of the worker for the first time.
Differences between HSS and hiring a live-in helper
With over 268,500 migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Singapore, it is not surprising that many households here employ a helper to assist with general housekeeping chores.
Employing a full-time live-in MDW can greatly alleviate the responsibilities and burdens associated with caring for elderly or young family members who require significant attention. The MDW can also help to prepare meals and do housekeeping on top of caring for family members.
On the other hand, engaging a part-time helper through HSS helps to maintain a certain level of privacy at home as the helper will only be around for a few hours a week. The HSS worker will still be able to complete the required chores or carry out the child- and elder-minding services. However, there are more guidelines on what they can and cannot do as they are not allowed to carry out services beyond MOM’s scope, such as advanced care tasks like tube feeding.
Expenditure-wise, engaging a live-in helper would undoubtedly incur additional costs as it includes the living expenses of another individual. The helper will also require their own room unless otherwise agreed upon. Unlike hiring a live-in helper, the HSS helper is not required to live with the household, and takes care of their own transport and meals.
However, since the same HSS worker can be deployed to multiple households, their services must be scheduled ahead of time. In comparison, a live-in helper works for only one household and can more flexibly accommodate urgent or last-minute changes in schedules and needs.
Every family has different needs when it comes to hiring help for their household.
The government launched the HSS to help families as a great alternative to a full-time helper and it is most suitable for families that require domestic services on an ad-hoc basis to balance their career and family commitments better. HSS is also useful when families require a temporary replacement or support for their usual caregiver.
A live-in helper, however, is best suited for families with regular elder- or child-minding needs, especially if the care required is beyond the scheme’s scope. While costlier, a full-time helper is able to assist in more tasks without the need to schedule a booking ahead of time.
If you are thinking of hiring a live-in helper and want to know more about maid insurance, feel free to reach out to the Planner Bee team at firstname.lastname@example.org.